We are off to Hardeeville, SC, camped at Camp Lake Jasper RV Resort on the Georgia border. We have the best spot in the entire campground, nestled in front of Lake Jasper with woods on one side of us. It is an immaculately maintained campground with beautiful clean patios and brand new picnic tables. There is a heated pool and very nicely equipped facilities. I’m so happy to be here for 7 full days. It’s great to just settle in for awhile.
Camp Lake Jasper, Hardeeville SC (no alligators)
It was pouring again and expected to continue raining for the next several days. Rainy season seems to be following us wherever we go. This is a perfect day for Planet Fitness so we drove into Savannah and spent time working out. Then we drove around the city and had a fabulous meal at a very hip, southern restaurant near the river–Treylor Park. Despite the spelling of Treylor, they had pictures of campers all around the place….very appropriate. Savannah is a very beautiful place, despite the torrential rain.
Savannah, GA waterfront with Georgia Queen & Treylor Park (get it?)
We looked up the top three attractions in Hardeeville, SC. # 1 is the Savannah Wildlife Refuge. There is a four mile drive through the refuge where they promise excellent opportunities to see the wildlife including various birds and alligators. Based on the write up, we expected to see at least 20 alligators but alas, we didn’t see any. Perhaps this is a good thing.
Savannah Wildlife Refuge – no alligators
#3 on the list of attractions is Thelma and Louise- a pair of random elephant statues in a parking lot of a fireworks store. That gives you an idea about Hardeeville’s attractions. I never saw so many firework’s stores in one location, yet I never heard any fireworks. If you are curious about #2 on the list of attractions, it is an indoor shooting range. I decided to skip that one.
Hardeeville’s #3 attraction plus Red Dam Church, SC
Had a very nice visit with my sister and her husband, Jules. They live in a rural area about an hour away from our campground on a very large property. We actually could have parked the RV on their property but we had already booked the campsite for the week. So- we packed overnight bags and spent the night in the “cook house” where Jules prepares his meals after hunting. He is a master hunter and the cook house was covered with his various hunting trophies–deer heads, bear skins, antlers, snake skins, turkey, squirrel, wild boar, etc. We had a wonderful time, despite the fact that their political views are at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a wonder I didn’t have any nightmares sleeping under the Trump/Pence poster.
Ellen & Jules & a few of many hunting trophies in cook house, Islandton, SC
On Saturday, I accompanied my sister to her job at the vet’s office because she had to geld a donkey. I tried to watch because they did it in the parking lot next to the Dollar General (I kid you not), but just couldn’t bear it. I have to hand it to her. There is no way that I could do what she does everyday.
That evening, Jules cooked up an amazing seafood pasta. On Sunday, Ellen visited our camper for a campfire BBQ.
Jules special seafood pasta & cookout with Ellen at Lake Jasper
Whirlwind Tour of Florida Begins :
Today, we begin our journey to Florida where we anticipate the most hectic visiting schedule of the year. Coming from NY, one expects to have lots of friends and family to see in Southern New York (aka- Florida). We first tried to arrange an extra stop somewhere near Orlando, hoping to connect with John’s cousin Jimmy and his family who were just arriving at Disney World!
Old picture of Cousin Jim, Yvette, Cara, & young Kellianne.– —– we just couldn’t fit in an Orlando detour the day they arrived in Disney World
Unfortunately, we just couldn’t make the logistics work out: securing a campground close enough, shortened daylight & travel time – and trying to make southeast FLA to visit my mother, our son Michael, and John’s brother Michael in time for Thanksgiving. Like Jimmy said ‘Florida is a big state’. – Ain’t it the truth!?
One night stay: NOVA Family Campground, Port Orange, Fl
This campground is very odd. The people who run it are very friendly and accommodating but it is very crowded with trailers of all sizes, shapes, ages and quality. It was fine for a one night stay, but anything longer would become depressing. We didn’t bother unhitching so we took a 2 mile walk (round trip) to a local Mexican restaurant.
In the morning, we packed up and looked forward to moving on—to the tune of a young man talking on his cell phone so loud, you could hear every obnoxious word. At one point, he yelled across to a neighbor in a small camper, asking her about her recent doctor’s visit. She screamed back, “I’m fine. It was only my emphysema.” What? ONLY EPHYSEMA? Yikes. Trailer park life?
John Easterlin Park, Oakland Park, Fl
lakeside campsite Easterlin Park FLA
We arrived at John Easterlin Park in Oakland Park, Florida in the broad daylight without rain. What a difference! It was such a pleasure. This is a beautiful little secluded park that is nestled in a very urban commercial area near Fort Lauderdale. Our site is gorgeous, our neighbors are wonderful and the weather is ideal. Unfortunately, we will be victim to the famous “Easterlin Shuffle”. This park is apparently famous for shuffling campers around. We have this spot for 5 days and then we have to move to a different spot which isn’t quite as nice but still fine.
Thanksgiving at Mr. Chen’s Hunan Palace
Thanksgiving Day. Spent the day visiting my mom who lives in Kings Point in Delray Beach and my aunt in her long term care facility. We planned a BBQ because our actual Thanksgiving dinner will be on Saturday when my brother-in-law Michael flies in from his trip to Seattle visiting our nephew, Derek and his wife Olga along with our niece Elyse. Our son Michael also flies in from San Diego on the morning after Thanksgiving. The weather has been gorgeous (sorry to all my friends in the Northeast) but we had a lot of rain in the late afternoon so we decided to go out for Chinese food and do the BBQ tomorrow night. I’ve always wanted to eat Chinese food on Thanksgiving. It’s like the Christmas Story movie and the food was fabulous.
A lot has happened over the last few days. It has been a whirlwind of activity visiting family and friends. The day after Thanksgiving, my son Michael arrived from San Diego in the wee hours of the morning. John had to wake up at 3:30am and pick him up from Fort Lauderdale airport. Late in the afternoon, I picked my mother up and brought her back to the RV for a BBQ/campfire–our signature event. She is 85 years old and in great shape so she had no difficulty hopping up into the truck and climbing in and out of the RV. My mom and I took an Uber back to her house so the boys could have some time to hang out.
BBQ with Marian & son Michael, then campfire with both Michaels
A Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving
Saturday was our actual Thanksgiving celebration. I picked up a heat and serve Thanksgiving dinner from Cracker Barrel- enough for 12 people. It really was wonderful. Even if you are not a fan of Cracker Barrel, you would love this meal. Kudos to Cracker Barrel. The turkey was super tender and the sides were amazing. They package everything very conveniently and provide excellent, clear heating instructions. So- we had 5 people and enough food for 12. Six days later, we are still enjoying some of the leftovers. On Sunday, Michael and John slept over Uncle Michael’s house in Coral Springs and I spend another night with my mom.
Saturday Thanksgiving at Marian’s home in Delray Beach – Big Michael back from Seattle
Before we went off our separate ways, we had to pack up and move our entire operation to the spot next door (Easterlin Shuffle). It sounds easy but it is still a big move. Again, John did an extraordinary job backing into a difficult spot but as he was doing it, I noticed that one of the trailer tires looked very low. We had our very first tire issue. I checked the pressure and the tire was at 20 PSI instead 80. Not good. I guess this was bound to happen at some point. We do have a spare tire, but we don’t have a hydraulic jack, which we would need in order to change the tire ourselves. Luckily, we have roadside assistance through FMCA and made arrangements to have the tire changed. I hope they actually show up and know what they are doing. It also appears that an iguana pooped all over one of our trailer windows. Shit happens, I guess.
Iguanas in the trees – leapin lizards?
Back to our hectic week. On Monday, I picked up Michael and John and drove back to my mother’s house so that we could all visit Aunt Eunice again. We spent a couple of hours with her and then headed back to the trailer for a BBQ. Uncle Michael came over and joined us.
visiting Aunt Eunice at her new assisted living facility near Delray
On Tuesday, we met up with one of my buddies from high school, Sue Candreva and her husband, Bob. They live in Port St. Lucie but we met for a wonderful lunch at Guanabanna’s in Jupiter. Later that evening, we went back to my mother’s and had dinner at my favorite restaurant in Delray- 3Gs. It’s a great Jewish deli. There is another deli called 2Js but I prefer 3Gs. It has been a Thanksgiving week eating frenzy.
Sue and Bob in Jupiter, FL (he golfs twice a week in Port St Lucie even in winter)
Tomorrow, we move off the east coast and begin our crazy schedule on the west coast. Stay tuned.
There is something about this camp site that seems to be cursed. Time to pack up and batten down the hatches but we had so many complications to deal with. We had to take the spare tire off and put the repaired tire back on-we had to secure the spare tire and then we had a minor catastrophe with water overflowing in the RV when we were flushing the tank. Luckily, it was clean water but we had to use every available towel in the camper to clean up the spill. Although it ate up a lot of time, it was sort of a positive thing as it basically forced me to wash our floors.
flat tires, signal lights and water fiascoes all before setting out for west coast
Finally, one of the final steps on our moving day checklist is checking the lights on the trailer. We always make sure the brake lights and turning signals are working. Well, the right signal wasn’t working. It really was like we were jinxed. Luckily, it started working after we jiggled it a bit.
Off to Koreshan State Park in Estero, Florida – the West (Gulf Coast).
Koreshan State Historic Site, Estero, Florida
John showed off his skills backing into spots and we successfully parked in a narrow, but fairly private site. We arrived just as the sun was going down and we spent the evening getting settled and washing all of our towels. It’s unusual for a state park to have laundry facilities so this was a very nice surprise.
We spent a lovely day today with old friends from NY, Candie and Fred. They live in a beautiful home in Estero and they toured us around the town and Sanibel Island. They also took us out to lunch at a fabulous Greek restaurant.
Fred and Candie Frankel at home in Estero, FL
On Sanibel, we walked along the shoreline of Bowman Beach which was littered with millions of seashells. The water was sparkling clean and a stunning blue-green. The sun was setting and the weather was perfect.
Bowman Beach on Sanibel Island with Candie and Fred
Candie and Fred filled us in on the history behind the Koreshan State Historic Site which used to be the site of a cult in the late 1800’s, established by a man named Cyrus Teed who believed that the earth was actually a hollow sphere with the sun (an electromagnetic battery) revolving in the center. He changed his named to Koresh (which translates to shepherd) and formed this “utopian commune” where the members practiced Koreshanity. They started a self-contained community in Estero that lasted for decades, but declined after Koresh’s death.
Koreshan State Historic Site, Estero FLA
They believed in their founder’s imminent reincarnation so when Cyrus Teed died, his followers kept his body in the bathtub waiting for his reincarnation to occur. After a certain period of time went by, the authorities made them dispose of the body. Crazy stuff. It’s a very nice park but tomorrow we move up the west coast to Bradenton, Florida. Onward and upward.
Horseshoe Cove RV Resort, Bradenton, Florida
Checked in to Horseshoe Cove just north of Sarasota. This is a very large community comprised of mostly permanent mobile homes. It is our first experience with a 55+ resort community. The grounds and facilities are very well maintained and the people have been very friendly. They have a great clubhouse with a large outdoor pool, fitness center and loads of other amenities/activities….all for a remarkably reasonable price. The only negative is the fact that the sites are fairly close together but there are some beautiful and private spots along the grounds including a private island that we can access by foot or bicycle.
Horseshoe Cove island off RV park, Bradenton (Sarasota) FLA
The island is surrounded by the Braden River and there is a lagoon that is supposedly home to several manatees (though we haven’t spotted any yet). Our neighbor is from Massachusetts and told us that it only costs $500 if you stay for a month. This may be a good place to stay for the winter months next year (if we are still on the road).
John worked out in the fitness center and swam a few laps in the pool. We took a bike ride with Baker and walked to a nearby cafe for a delicious and very inexpensive restaurant. A cup of coffee with refills is $.25.
Then we spent the rest of the day with old friends from John’s air traffic control days.
Mike (Maz), Debbie, Arianna, and Anthony near Siesta Key/Sasasota (Bradenton)
Mike was a controller with John in both the Washington and NY Air Traffic Control Centers. He and his wife, Debbie have a place in Siesta Key. They have been babysitting two of their grandchildren, Arianna (5 years old) and Anthony (3 years old). The kids are adorable and we had a great day with them. We visited an enormous, beautiful mall in Sarasota, had some lunch and then a pina colada at a Tiki bar on Siesta Key.
Siesta Key and Famous Siesta Beach
We’ve enjoyed the last few days at Horseshoe Cove especially the little island on the Braden River where we did finally see our manatees. One of them actually seemed to be performing for us. He was very close and kept poking his head up and rolling all around.
We didn’t have a lot of free time but we did get to see the pearl white sand of Siesta Beach. Unfortunately the red tide put a bit of a damper on it, but you could still experience the beauty. The sand is super soft, always cool and totally white. The water looked gorgeous but there were some dead fish washing up from the red tide and it impacts breathing. I could immediately feel it in my throat so we didn’t stay long.
We were also able to tour St. Petersburg, visit Fort DeSoto Beach, get in a round of Par 3 golf and squeeze in another visit with Mike, Debbie, Arianna and Anthony. Next stop- Ocala and Silver Springs State Park.
St Pete ‘Sunshine Skyway Bridge’, harbor Christmas lights, and the ‘James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art’ – with the sculpture ‘Man Catches Eagle’ outside
Silver Springs State Park, Silver Springs (Ocala), Fl.
This is another oasis in the middle of a busy, commercial section of Ocala. The park is very serene and we have a private large site. This was probably the easiest site to back into yet. You could fit 3 RVs in here. It’s a shame that we only have one day here and what a full day!
We had to wake up very early (5:45 AM) to get to our friend’s, Frank and Micki’s house in a lovely Ocala community around 40 minutes away. Frank was an air traffic controller in NY Center with John and always such a gregarious, fun person. He hasn’t changed a bit and Micki is just as delightful as ever. Micki was hosting us for breakfast and the guys had an 8:30 am tee time on their gorgeous, perfectly manicured golf course.
‘Frankie’ and Micki Mueller home with ‘Ruby’, and Frank’s Ocala buds
Micki and I walked our dogs around the grounds and then took a yoga class and visited a farmer’s market. We met up with John and Frank and had a New Orlean’s style lunch in town. Then back to Frank and Micki’s to hang out and enjoy their company. Micki made us a delicious dinner so we were there from 7:30am until 9:30pm and enjoyed every minute of their company.
downtown Ocala FLA Christmas lights
Big Tree RV Park, Jacksonville, FL
We moved on, yet again, to Jacksonville, Fl to the Big Tree RV Resort which is not quite as lovely or private as our last site but the man who runs the campground is very nice and it’s fine for a short stay. We are visiting another air traffic controller friend, Dale and his wife Michelle from way back in the Washington Center days.
Spent the day with Dale, Michelle and their 21 year old son, Shane. They live in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. The area is so lovely with tall, mature trees and stately homes. We had lunch in town at Amelia Tavern and Shane even joined us. It was so refreshing to meet a 21 year old guy who, not only was eager to hang out with old codgers like us, but he was super friendly and engaging. I’m not crazy about Jacksonville, because it is just too crowded and urban for my taste, but I could see myself living on Amelia Island for sure.
Dale and Michelle Peterman and son Shane holding his niece Jaycee ———-sorry no pix of cool downtown Amelia Island fest…………….wuda, cuda, shuda —I forgot
Our time was short with Dale and Michelle because we have to get ready for our move tomorrow to Crestview. The forecast is pouring rain (yet again), so we want to pack everything up tonight.
Eagle’s Landing RV Resort, Holt, Fl
Our whirlwind tour of Florida is almost over. We arrived yesterday to our campground in Holt which is 15 miles away from our mail service in Crestview. I’m actually very excited to pick up my bundle of mail today. Holt and Crestview are in the western portion of the panhandle on the border of Alabama, not far from Mississippi and Louisiana. The campground is Eagle’s Landing RV park right off I-10 and it is very quiet and clean. We’re a very long way from our first long stay in Oakland Park. We’re even in a different time zone. We’ve certainly covered a lot of ground in Florida.
Blackwater River State Park in FLA panhadle, and Destin Beach on the Gulf of Mexico
Today we officially left New York behind and became Florida residents. We went to the Tax Collector’s Office in Crestview , got our Florida drivers licenses, registered our vehicles and registered to vote. It was very easy. We actually had the sweetest young lady in the whole place helping us.
Florida ‘State of the Arts’ among 50 choices of license plate styles
Today we took a breath and slowed down a bit. We had planned to go to the only restaurant in Holt (Susan’s Restaurant) to have a country style breakfast. They opened at 10:30am which was a little suspect but they definitely had breakfast items on their website menu. Well- they only serve breakfast on Saturdays. As NYers, we just expect to find pancakes and eggs available anytime, anywhere. Luckily, there is a Cracker Barrel in Crestview around 10 miles away. As my son Michael would say, “This is a first world problem”.
Patricia Calloway’s house in Mississippi
We mapped out our trip to our friend Patricia’s house (Michael C’s mom & our niece Becky’s mother-in-law) in Mississippi and the route looked a bit ominous for a 35′ RV so John decided to rebel against the GPS lady and go via I-10. It was a bit less direct but easier for RVing. Unfortunately, there were 2 major traffic jams on I-10 in Pensacola Fl due to 2 separate nasty motor vehicle accidents. We tried to go around the accident and found ourselves in some difficult situations adding on an hour or so the drive.
TIP: Do not try to stop for Dunkin Donuts coffee while towing a 35′ fifth wheel. That’s all I’m going to say.
We finally arrived at Patricia’s lovely house in a very rural area of Mississippi after dark and had a minor incident with one of her trees. Battle scar # 2- a tree ripped our awning. Another first world problem.
Patricia has a beautiful A frame house in the woods on a river. It’s gorgeous.
Patricia Calloway’s house in Brooksville MS
We had an incredible dinner last night with Patricia’s famous home baked desserts to die for. This morning, she cooked up (from scratch) some biscuits, sausage and eggs. Then she drove us to Columbus, MS (birthplace of Tennessee Williams) where we had a Southern style lunch. I had southern fried chicken which would knock Colonel Sanders right out of his boots.
Columbus MS sights including lock system on Tom Bigbee river
After lunch, Patricia treated us to a tour of a beautiful Antebellum house called the Waverly Plantation. The tour guide was amazing and the house’s rich history was fascinating.
Waverly Plantation antebellum mansion from 1852 & 250 yr old Magnolia tree
After the tour, we had dinner at Ruben’s known for their fried catfish. Southern cooking at its best. John and I have definitely gained weight on this trip but it was worth every calorie.
Postscript: We are a bit behind so stay tuned for Memphis, TN, Pre-Christmas in Indiana, hot times in Hot Springs, Arkansas and much more to come.